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Lincoln and Stone Protest Slavery

By David J. Kent

Washington D.C.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

On March 3, 1837, twenty-eight-year-old Lincoln was a state legislator in Illinois. As with many free states, Illinois was being pressured by slaveholding states to ban abolitionist societies and criminalize anti-slavery “agitation.” The bill passes overwhelmingly, 95-6. Lincoln is one of the six and decides to write a protest to explain his vote. He and fellow legislator Dan Stone lay out their beliefs:

  • The institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy.

  • But, abolition doctrines increase rather than abate its evils.

  • Congress has no power to interfere with slavery in the states.

  • But, Congress does have the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.

These four principles lay out Lincoln’s positions on “the peculiar institution.” He remains consistent with these principles his entire career. In short, he believes slavery is immoral and ought to be ended. The question is how to accomplish this goal. He felt that the abolitionist tendency to demonize slaveowners put them on the defensive, thus making it harder to get them to free the men and women they held in slavery. Additionally, abolitionists wanted Congress to arbitrarily ban slavery in the states in which it still existed, an unconstitutional act that would invite a pro-slavery Supreme Court to strike down the legislation and damage other attempts to convince slaveholding states to end enslavement. But, Lincoln said, Congress does have authority over federal territories such as the District of Columbia and the substantial acquired lands from the Louisiana Purchase and the war with Mexico. These principles guided his path forward.

This event was the beginning of Lincoln's long road to emancipation. Read the full story at


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